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Tatum took over: 10 Takeaways from Celtics-Cavaliers

Jayson Tatum exploded in the middle quarters to lead Boston over Cleveland

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

1. This was a good bounce-back win for the Boston Celtics over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Boston struggled last time out against the New York Knicks. The Celtics also had issues with the Cavs, with a pair of overtime losses earlier in the year. Those are both bounce-back opportunities, and the guys in green delivered.

It also felt like Boston kind of needed a good win over a quality opponent. Not to denigrate the Philadelphia 76ers, but the Celtics haven’t really struggled with them for a while now. The Cavs were that opportunity for a good win over a fellow playoff team.

It’s fair to point out that things got a little messy in the last few minutes of this game. But the Celtics were also in control for the entire second half. Yes, we want to see them close games with a bit more urgency, so hopefully this is a lesson learned. We’ll see, as we’ve certainly been here before.

Mostly, this was a necessary and good win for Boston, and they got it.

2. Jayson Tatum had a slow start. Then he took over. Like, fully took over. Absolutely dominated the second and third quarters. Tatum scored 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the second quarter. Then he followed that up with 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the third quarter.

That’s 33 points on 11-of-14 shooting in basically 20 minutes. Let’s take a look.

3. These plays are all from the second period for Jayson Tatum. Want to wake yourself up after a sleepy start? This is a good way to do it:

We’ve talked a lot about the Celtics using Rob Williams’ improved screening to get free. Tatum rejects the screen from Mike Muscala where he would have been going to his shooting hand. Instead, Tatum uses Williams’ screen and pulls up going to his left:

With Tatum starting to heat up just a bit, look at how high the Cavs pickup points are here. Tatum uses that against them to set up Sam Hauser in the corner:

This is outstanding playmaking from Tatum. It starts with the patience to work the two-man game with Williams. As he draws the entire Cavs defense, Tatum delivers the terrific hook pass to Al Horford in the corner:

When you play the right way and move the ball, it finds its way back to you:

4. When you are on a hot streak like Jayson Tatum was, the last thing you want is halftime. You want to keep it going. But Tatum didn’t let the break cool him off at all.

This could, and probably should, have been a turnover to open the second half. For Tatum to catch and deliver this pass in one motion is really great stuff:

This is Tatum using Rob Williams’ vertical gravity to his advantage. Jarrett Allen can’t fully commit, or Tatum will lob it to Williams. That allows Tatum to get Isaac Okoro on his hip for the and-1:

You know if Tatum is this hot, there’s going to be one of his classic step-backs in the mix:

Again, simple is often best. This drive-and-kick is perfect simplicity:

It’s always great to see Tatum not resort to only the step-back when he draws a big on a switch. Allen does well initially, but Tatum gets him with the spin before swooping for the finger roll:

5. For all that Jayson Tatum starred and led the way, it wasn’t all him. Al Horford turned in another big game. He got started early. Aggressive Al usually leads to good things:

This play is awesome because all of the Celtics are on the same page. Tatum throws it to where he knows Horford will cut and Horford lobs it almost before Rob Williams starts his baseline cut:

Love that Williams doesn’t panic on this play. He looks at the clock and knows he has enough time to get it to Horford, who is flaming hot from behind the arc right now:

6. Sometimes when Al Horford has a big open to the game, he fades as others step into the limelight later. Not in this one. Horford made several big plays in the fourth quarter too.

There might not be a better pick-and-pop big man in the game at this moment than Horford:

Hit a few, and you get hard closeouts like this. Horford drives it, draws help and leaves it for Jaylen Brown in the corner:

This play followed a wild scramble, but it ended with Horford drawing an and-1:

7. We noted in the Takeaways from the Knicks game that Rob Williams hasn’t consistently looked like himself. He’s just been sort of off. Definitely not the impact player he’s been previously. At least not on an every-night basis.

This game was a good step forward for Williams. Rob looked like ROB again. This isn’t the best lob pass here, but Williams still puts it in:

This was one of those “My ball!” moments that Williams used to deliver every game:

Derrick White does a great job here of using his dribble for a beat to draw the big and open up the backdoor cut for Williams to get the lob:

8. Just before this clip starts, Marcus Smart had pressured Evan Mobley in the backcourt before recovering to Darius Garland. From there, Garland stays with Garland, fights around the Mobley screen, then drops into the passing lane for the steal:

They’ve been far more inconsistent than they were a year ago, but Smart still makes those DPOY plays when Boston needs them.

9. With a healthy roster, Joe Mazzulla has tough rotation calls to make. Out of the break, that saw Mike Muscala sitting. In this one, Mazzulla cited matchups as the reason he went with Muscala over Grant Williams.

It ended up being Williams first DNP-CD in nearly two years. That’s tough, given all that Williams has meant for Boston over the past couple of seasons. Hopefully, it was just a one-game, clear-your-head thing for Williams. In most matchups, he’ll be an important player for the Celtics. They’ve got to get him back into rhythm on both ends of the floor.

However, the bigger point remains that if Mazzulla sticks with a nine-man rotation (which is kind of the standard in the NBA), good players aren’t going to play. That’s just how it’ll be most nights.

10. The Celtics welcome the new-look Brooklyn Nets to Boston on Friday night. Brooklyn has been sliding in the standings since they traded away Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving ahead of the trade deadline.

But the Nets still have a ton of talented players. And they are playing hard. It’s imperative that Boston locks in early and takes control. This is another game the Celtics should win. If they want to keep pace with the Milwaukee Bucks at the top of the conference, they can’t afford any sloppy losses, especially at home.

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